Nostalgia

That’s a question I ask myself a lot about this ol’ blog these days.

Are you ready for a mind-boggling fact? I’ve been writing this blog for seven and a half years. I didn’t even realize that until I went to check the starting year so I could tell you how long I’ve been writing it. Isn’t that insane?

To put it in perspective, I’ve been a month for seven months. The longest I’ve ever held a single job was a little over two years. The longest romantic relationship I’ve ever had (hey, babe) has been seven years. The longest I’ve ever lived the same residence was about nine years.

This blog is one of the biggest commitments of my life.

And yet…lately, my life has been really busy. I’m raising a baby and working almost every minute of the day, and at night I mostly just want to collapse and do nothing, but I usually have to catch up on work from the day. I’m tired. And more importantly, my brain is tired. It would be so easy to shut down this little site and call it a day.

And yet…I can never pull the trigger. And when I talk to friends who are just beginning to blog or thinking about starting their own, I feel a spark of excitement as I remember what blogging can be. It makes me want to start a blog all over again.

I started this blog out of a weird sense of obligation as a fledgling journalist. I kept it going as a creative outlet when my career wasn’t particularly creative. In a lot of ways, it is my diary, my record of wins, losses, and all the feelings.

The blog has brought me emotional connections with people all around the world, including a few now real-life friends. While it has never been a source of major income for me, it has brought me business connections and opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

And, to be honest, I don’t want to stop blogging.

I think the struggle I’m having is that I don’t feel like I’m blogging well these days. I have all these ideas of things I want to do, but I’m not making the time or effort to put them into action. And it’s not that I don’t think I have good excuses why it doesn’t happen — I just wonder if I put a little more effort into time management, if maybe, just maybe, I could do it all.

(Welcome to my brain’s constant chorus: I never think I’m doing enough.)

So here’s what I’m thinking: I want to publish three times a week. And to keep myself accountable, I’m assigning a category for each post. And to keep my passion for the post alive, each of those categories will be one of my favorite things:

Post one will be a recipe or DIY, post two will be a product review or style-related (whether personal or home), and the third post will be a story. Because stories are what started this blog, and stories will always be what it’s about. My plan is to start next week.

I’ll be real with you guys, I’m a little nervous to publish this post. I’m nervous to say I’m going to do something when it will be extremely obvious and open if I fail. I hate failing. And I hate failing publicly.

But, you know what? After seven and a half years, I think I still have a few stories left to tell.

 

For some reason, I always looked forward to Vivian being six months old as a sort of distant parenting promised land. Especially when we were in the thick of the “fourth trimester,” when so much of my baby was unknown and scary and messy. I knew (or at least, had been assured) things would improve at three months, but the 6-month mark had been especially heralded as a turning point in development that would make both of our lives a lot easier.

But at the same time…it seemed like a really long way off. Especially when the infant in my arms was vomiting without cause at almost every meal or refusing to sleep despite being exhausted. 

That probably sounds naive, thinking that something a mere six months off would take forever to get here, but what can I say? Babies make you dumb.

The point is, the day finally came: Vivi is six months old! And while I can’t really say there was this marked shift overnight (and, let’s be honest, she really is a pretty good kid overall), it is making me reflect on how much smoother life is now that she has a few more months out of the womb under her tiny little belt.

 

Vivi’s six month brought quite a few milestones, including her first and second teeth. (Both within the second week. Yes, I do accept your condolences.)

She’s sitting up for a handful of seconds at a time, and can even stand while holding onto something for a while before plopping back down on her tush. As for crawling, she’s just now showing an interest in it, and even leap-frogged a couple hops on all fours yesterday. And while the thought of this whirling dervish being mobile is already a bit exhausting to think about, it’s also terribly exciting to see her changing in literal leaps and bounds.

 

Most of all, though, it is such a joy to see her little personality continue to shine through. Because, Vivi, you are so much sunshine. You are brave and kind, the two things I wished most for you. You love so hard, whether it’s your family, honorary family, or just another baby you happen to meet. You smile so easily, and nothing brightens my day like one of your cuddles or when the mood will suddenly strike you to gently lay a hand on my cheek and kiss my chin.

I am so, so grateful that I get to be your mama.

So, what I’m saying is, six months lives up to the hype. And I hear even better things about nine months.

Let’s do this, Vivi Bean.

 

Post-race cuddles

Post-race cuddles

You know how some people like to go for therapy? Or paint? Or stare at the horizon as if searching for answers?

I like to work out.

That probably comes as no surprise to those of you who have spent any time on this blog or with me in person, but I have to say, I didn’t truly realize how important physical activity was to me until after Vivi was born.

I wasn’t always this way. I started exercising in high school when I went through that tumultuous phase many teen girls go through of thinking I was fat. (Vivi, I know I probably can’t keep you from having those feelings, but let’s hope I’m able to help you handle them better than I handled them on my own!) Going to the gym was a punishing experience that I didn’t really look forward to except in that it would help abate my own guilt and self-loathing.

FUN, RIGHT?

As I got older and started to let go of some of the adolescent nonsense, I started running and even signed up for a few races. In running, I found a solace I had never experienced before. Yes, I was burning calories, but I also found that my mind was a littler calmer, a little quieter with every footfall and every quickened breath.

By the time I worked up the courage to sign up for my first half marathon, I knew I was on to something much more important than my jeans size.

A couple of years ago, a series of injuries pushed me to expand my workout horizons, and I started delving into fitness classes ranging from spin to pilates to boot camps. Where I had previously shied away from such public displays of fitness (one of the best parts of running is the quiet time you get with yourself), I found that the group environment had its own slew of benefits, from an accelerated atmosphere to extra motivation in the way of competition. Plus, classes offered variety, which is arguably the number one thing running tends to lack.

By the time I was ready to start trying for a baby, I was in the best shape of my life. I felt strong physically but also emotionally. I wasn’t the lightest I had ever been as an adult, but I didn’t even care about that anymore as long as I was able to crank out a dozen burpees and demonstrate a reasonable amount of flexibility.

As I’ve mentioned before, my then-doctor recommended I cut back on workouts when we started trying to get pregnant. I down-shifted to less strenuous options, but I knew I couldn’t stop completely. After all, exercise was sometimes the only thing I felt was keeping me sane. I was thrilled when I got pregnant fairly quickly and was able to return to more regular workouts.

And, as you know, I worked out my entire pregnancy. I feel very fortunate that I was able and felt up to working out right up until my 39th week (yeah, that last week? not happening), and I went into labor feeling strong and capable of handling whatever this little baby threw at me.

And then…I had a baby.

Suddenly, my life revolved around the needs of this tiny, desperate creature, and, honestly, I didn’t even think about workouts the first few weeks. I was exhausted, often starving (thanks a lot, breastfeeding), and, quite frankly, had some bigger things on my mind. I’m sure it helped that, because I hadn’t gained a lot of excess weight during pregnancy, I lost the baby weight in the first week or two. I know myself, and I know this whole experience would have been more mentally difficult if I was also dealing with my insecurity demons.

But as the weeks went on (and the flush of happy hormones started to level out), the insecurities did come creeping back. And while I was ironically lighter than I had ever been as an adult, I started to crave that feeling of strength and capability I had come to count on.

By the time I hit my 6-week mark and got the okay to exercise from my midwife, I was itching to do something active. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), I had agreed to run a 10K with a girlfriend months prior. That experience was…difficult. (Running six miles after not running for almost a year? Sure…let’s do that…) But it also felt good to hit the road again.

After that, I was determined to keep up my momentum. The problem? It’s really hard to find time to exercise with a 7-week-old baby. I decided to start small, which, honestly, was probably a smarter move since my body was still in healing mode. Since I was mostly looking to tone up and regain strength, I started scouring YouTube for exercise videos. I had to keep the workouts short (between 20-30 minutes) to fit them into Viv’s nap time, but you would be surprised how many options are out there. (Jillian Michaels and GymRa are my two favorites.)

As Vivi got older and started being able to entertain herself, I was able to workout while she was still awake. I would even incorporate her into the workout as a weight if she started to fuss, which satisfied us both. Working out with the baby also freed up her nap times for my freelance work, cleaning house, cooking, etc.

And I’m happy to report that it has only gotten easier to fit in fitness as Vivi has gotten older. Not only am I now able to leave her with Joey for the occasional spin class, she’s also big enough to ride in my jogging stroller for jaunts around the park. (I call her my personal trainer because she starts to fuss if I slow down to walk. It’s very motivational.)

Now I’m even training for another 10K in June — and Vivi will be pounding out every training mile with me.

The biggest difference between now and then, though? Now, I’m not just keeping fit for me. I want to be healthy so I can keep up with my daughter as she grows. I want to set an example of health and fitness for her now, and maybe even have the opportunity to run with her when she’s older. I look forward to our runs as bonding time because we always take a break to sit in the sunshine in the park. And I love to think that by setting a pattern of health now, I’m maybe saving her from some of those negative adolescent feelings later.

Let’s hit the road, baby doll.

I think it's pronounced "yogging"

I think it’s pronounced “yogging”

At the close of each year, I typically do the same thing on my blog. I’ll write two posts; one is a recap of the top ten most-read posts of the year, and the other is a recap of myself.

Thanks to SEO, though, the top ten posts have stayed fairly stagnant over the last couple of years. In general, my how-tos dominate every time. (Lookin’ at you, How to Paint a Metal File Cabinet.) So I think it might be time to retire that one.

As for my yearly recap, I generally follow the same theme, answering the same questions so I can look back over the years and think ahhh remember when? (Here is last year’s.)

But before I get to that, let’s do a quick year-in-review.

suprise!

Obviously, the biggest thing that happened to my little family this year was that we got a bit bigger. From the moment we announced our pregnancy, I think virtually everything I posted on here in 2015 was about the baby. Since I got pregnant in January, 2015 will forever be the year I remember as The Year of the Baby.

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2015 was also the year of work trips for me. It started with a week-long jaunt to San Francisco for some training. It was extra fun because I got to see my first friend ever, Jackie, who I hadn’t seen in a few years.

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Then, in early spring, I also started a new job (I know, I know, great timing, uterus!) that launched with a trip to Belgium for even more training. (And frites…lots of frites. I was pregnant, after all!)

First unpacked box!

First unpacked box!

Shortly after the Belgium trip, we moved into our current apartment. It was a relief to finally be able to explain to people why, exactly, we needed two bedrooms in our new place.

And then it was summer! The most notable thing that happened to us? Finding out that the little bean in my belly was a girl.

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That was such a blissful day. I still watch our reveal video sometimes!

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Next, Joey and I jetted off to Florida for a babymoon. I truly can’t remember every feeling so relaxed and at peace with my life as I was on that trip — or so excited for Vivian to join us!

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Shortly after that, Joey checked off a bucket list item: He ran his first half marathon! Even though I was super bummed not to be able to run with him, it was a fun change of pace to be the one proudly waiting at the finish line.

 

Yay for Susan!

Yay for Susan!

Congratulations, Natalie!

Congratulations, Natalie!

Then our lives entered the “party phase,” with a slew of baby showers and two weddings (a welcome change from last year’s FIVE weddings).

After that, it felt like all there was left to do was wait — and get rounder. And then, one magic day in September, we finally got to meet our little girl.

{The sweetest face I've ever seen.}

{The sweetest face I’ve ever seen.}

Have you ever seen anything so perfect? I haven’t.

Since then, my blogging regularity has been shot to heck, but my life has never felt fuller. It’s not always wonderful (as I’m sure any new parent would agree…or any parent ever), but there are a lot more wonderful moments.

2015, you were a hoot.

And now, the moment you’ve all (hahahahaha) been waiting for…my yearly sum-uppance.

Age: 28. And I’ve officially stopped getting carded. (Though the fact that a baby is often strapped to me is probably helping.)

Location: New York City

Occupation: Freelance editor/writer/social strategist. (The other biggest change in my life.)

New favorite food: A few years ago, I changed this question to be a shout-out to a food I realized I loved in the last year. I didn’t really eat a lot of new things this year because I spent a majority of the year mildly queasy, but in the last month or so, I was finally convinced to branch out from my usual Thai order and tried Beef Pad See Ew. And it was awesome.

TV shows I’m watching: I finished rewatching Gilmore Girls, but I haven’t really found another show to take its place yet. I’m a big fan of cooking competition shows like Chopped. Sorry my TV watching is so lame.

Book I’m reading: I just finished The Great Train Robbery (highly recommend), and now I’m bouncing between Replay and Making the Terrible Twos Terrific. (Oh, did I mention I’M A MOM NOW?)(Sigh.)

What’s my hair doing right now: This question started out as a joke, but my answer is literally different every year, and I find it genuinely interesting to look back. (That sounds shallow, but y’all know I have a lot of theories on the link between hair and happiness.) Right now, I’m honestly not in love with my hair. Probably because it is practical right now. It’s a lob (which I like) with no bangs (which I fluctuate on like every woman in the Western Hemisphere). And it’s dark blonde/ombre-ish…which I am not loving. I will probably be blonder in the next month or so. I CAN’T QUIT YOU, HIGHLIGHTS.

How I did on my goals from last year: Just to remind you, these were last year’s goals, along with how I did:

1. Completely pay off our debts: I actually did pay off my credit card debt! And Joey is very close to paying off his! I still have a car payment (though it is also much diminished), but we got very, very close to this goal in 2015. I think early 2016 is going to be our time.

2. Build up a savings account: I actually did this too! Of course, it is in serious jeopardy now that I’m not working full-time, but it was fun while it lasted.

3. Pioneer at least five times: This one was a bust. I hate making excuses, but I have to go ahead and blame pregnancy on this one — it took a lot more out of me than I expected.

4. Find a new apartment in April (still in Queens): Done!

And, just in the name of total honesty, you should also know that one of my secret goals last year was to have a baby. I just didn’t want to put it here because I didn’t want to add any extra pressure on the process. So I’m going to go ahead and check that one off too.

And now…goals for next year:

I would like to travel a bit (mostly to see family and hopefully to visit the area where we got engaged), especially while Vivian still flies free. I also want to simplify a lot of our lives, from cleaning out clutter to cutting back on unnecessary expenses. Other than that, I mostly want to keep raising Vivi and make this whole freelancing thing work. You know, no big deal. (LIFE, YOU GUYS.)

So as we bid adieu to The Year of the Baby, I have to say it’s one I will never forget. Can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store.

It’s time for that other favorite year-end blog tradition: the top 10 most visited posts of 2014! (Here’s last year’s for reference.)

Due to the wonders of SEO, pretty much every post on the list this year (and most of last year’s) is a how-to. But, hey, if it helped you, I’m happy. Let’s get into it, shalllll we?

10. I Almost Got Hit by a Car Today

So…I really don’t know why this one was so popular. Unless you all actually wish me dead and I just haven’t figured it out yet. The thing is, a LOT of people search the words “almost got hit by car.” So…apparently this is more common than I thought and it’s more of a miracle that it hadn’t happened sooner.

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9. Three Ways to Style a Top Knot

You know what people loved this year? Top knots. NeverMIND the fact that it’s called a bun and has been around for centuries. The only thing people love more than knots on their heads is multiple ways to create them. Apparently.

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8. What Guys Should Wear for Pictures

The only thing that concerned ladies more than how to style their hair this year? What their fella was going to wear for their engagement pictures. I gotchu.

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7. What to Wear to a Concert

This post, born out of my own uncoolness, continues to dominate. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, but the biggest reassurance here is that I’m not the only one who has NO IDEA what to wear to concerts.

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6. How to Write the Perfect Thank-You Note

I’m actually quite pleased this one has risen in the ranks — this is knowledge people need to know!

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5. How to Plan a Kate Spade Party

You know what life needs sometimes? An elaborately themed, super girly party. This one will definitely fit the bill.

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4. How to: Healthy Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

If I’m speaking my truth here, this isn’t even one of my favorite recipes I’ve ever made. And the photos are terrible. But these cookies ARE pretty dang nutritious, and I’m glad you all enjoyed them.

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3. How to Plan a Mad Men Party

Our themed housewarming shindig remains one of my most successful parties to date, so I’m glad it’s still getting a lot of traffic. Feel free to steal any and all of these ideas.

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2. How to Skip Washing Your Hair for Six Days

It got bumped from the first place spot this year, but “how to be grubby without people noticing” is still a popular topic with y’all. My pain is your gain.

photo of how to paint a metal filing cabinet

1. How to Paint a Metal Filing Cabinet

This simple little post has been climbing the ranks for the last couple of years, but it finally made it to the top. I decided to include a photo of it present-day to prove that this tutorial actually does hold up. Pretty neat, huh?

SO there you have it. Did your favorite post make the cut?

There is simply no non-cliche way to say, “golly, can you believe the year is almost over?!” So I’m just going to avoid it all together. But you get the sentiment.

2014 was a really good year for me. As my Facebook feed starts to fill with the social network’s latest look-back campaign, I paused to actually think about all I had accomplished this year.

I started the year in the cold, training for my first ever full marathon. It wasn’t always great, but in the end I accomplished my goal.

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Besides the race itself, Joey and I also took our second trip to Paris, which, like the race, was full of terrible and wonderful moments. I like the think the wonderful (mostly) outweighed the bad, though.

Monet's garden.

Monet’s garden.

2014 was also the year of weddings. And weddings. And more weddings. After watching five of our dear friends tie the knot, I was reminded of two things: 1) It’s a good thing I really love weddings. 2) I am so glad Joey and I got that out of the way years ago. Turns out there’s less stress about scheduling when you get hitched young.

One of the best things that happened to me this year? This fuzzy face.

Sleep on alllll the pillows...

Sleep on alllll the pillows…

Yes, after years of dreaming, hoping, wishing, and all the other verbs you can pack into a ’50s doo-wop song, we finally got a dog of our own. Anyone who spends even a few minutes with me knows how much I love that little dog — Joey and I say all the time we can’t imagine not having him. He has certainly been a highlight of the year.

I didn’t make it back to the Midwest this year (le siiiiigh), but I did get to see my family for my parents’ 30th anniversary. The planning was a bit stressful, but the part itself turned out exactly how I had hoped it would. (And, honestly, how often can you say that?)

lurrrve

lurrrve

The most exciting thing that happened this fall was our trip to California, when I finally did the drive down the West Coast I’ve always wanted to do.

That's a happy girl right there.

That’s a happy girl right there.

After months spent planning that trip, it also went off without a hitch. Which, if you know me, NEVER happens to me. But it was so lovely getting to see my brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, and a bunch of friends as we made our way south. And, you guys? That weather? I honestly don’t understand why people live anywhere else.

Other than the California trip, our fall/winter has been pretty quiet so far as we’ve gotten more serious about paying off debts and saving money. #adulthood, dude. Besides a long weekend in Vermont in January, we don’t really have any other trips planned for a while. (Besides Iowa next summer…it has been way too long.) Fortunately, my parents are visiting in February to temper some of my Midwest homesickness.

Like I said, a pretty good year all around. For old time’s sake, here is my sixth annual Year-End Sum-Uppance. (Here’s last year’s, for reference.)

Age: 27, but I still need to wear makeup to get taken seriously in meetings. And I finally grew out the little-girl bangs, which helped.

Location: New York City

Occupation: Social Media Strategy Manager.

New favorite food: Some of you may remember that last year I adjust this to be a shout-out to a food I realized I loved in the last year. The winner for 2014? Grilled octopus. Those Astoria Greeks know what they’re doing.

TV shows I’m watching: This year I got SUPER into Parks & Rec (I’m not emotionally ready for the series finale in 2015), and I’ve started rewatching Gilmore Girls. Up next, I think I want to get into The West Wing. (Obviously these sentences brought to you by Netflix.)

Book I’m reading: Life of Pi

What’s my hair doing right now: Sort of a joke, but also sort of serious since I talk about it often enough on this blog. Still blonde and super long at the moment. Getting a haircut the first week of January. But I think I’m done with bangs. (FOR NOW.)

How I did on my goals from last year: Just to remind you, these were last year’s goals, along with how I did:

1. Travel more.
Check! One international trip and one cross-country vacation definitely qualify.

2. Run a marathon.
Another check!

3. Finally get a dog.
You guys. I killed it this year.

4. Pick up at least 20 freelance assignments.
I think it was actually closer to 15, but I still feel good about that. I have a pretty regular gig at a local magazine, which has been a nice creative outlet.

5. Get closer to figuring out where we want to settle.
We’ll be in New York for at least another year, but I think our California trip narrowed things down for me. Guess we’ll see!

Goals for next year: Completely pay off our debts, build up a savings account, pioneer at least five times, and find a new apartment in April (still in Queens).

In general, I feel like 2014 was a semi-pivotal year for me. I feel so much more secure with who I am and my relationship with so many people in my life than I ever have before. I feel like maybe I’m getting better at this whole life thing.

How was your year?